The Catholic Church of the United States launched Tuesday a campaign of contacts with federal lawmakers urging them to pass immigration reform, as part of its annual observance of National Migration Week.

The U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference considers that migrants, especially children, the undocumented, political refugees and victims of human trafficking, "often find themselves existing in a kind of figurative darkness where their options remain limited."

For that reason, besides the social services and spiritual support the Catholic Church regularly offers, the bishops asked U.S. Catholics to contact legislators this week to ask them to pass immigration reform.

That reform should include "a legalization process that will bring them (undocumented immigrants) out of the shadows and provide them with the opportunity to contribute to society and live out their lives in dignity."

Starting Tuesday, those interested will be able to send e-mails to their senators or representatives in Congress via the bilingual Web site Justice for Immigrants.

Though the call is directed toward all Catholics, the bishops' request is expected to have a particularly strong response from Hispanics, who represent 39 percent of U.S. Catholics overall and more than half of those under 30.

Wednesday, the Catholic faithful will leave voice mail on the telephones of their congressmen and women expressing their support for immigration reform.

On Thursday Catholics will use social networks to post the same message on behalf of immigrants.

The bishops also urged Catholics to pray all week for the protection of immigrants.

Federal government statistics indicate that during fiscal year 2011 some 8,000 unaccompanied, undocumented minors remained in the custody of authorities.

In 2013, that number soared to 23,000 and for fiscal year 2014 it is estimated that 54,000 immigrant children will be kept in the 80 federal centers designated for that purpose. EFE